AMD Launches New Bobcat APUs

At Computex this week, AMD has launched a refresh of its popular Bobcat APU. The new Brazos 2.0 chips are slipping in at the top of the Bobcat product stack and offer marginal speed increases as well as an assortment of new features.

On the performance side of things, virtually nothing changes. The new E2-1800 is 50MHz (three percent) faster than the E-450 it replaces, while the E1-1200 is 7.6 percent faster than the E-300. GPU speeds were tweaked a bit more at the top end; the E2-1800's Radeon is up to 13 percent faster than its Brazos 1.0 counterpart. Neither component is fast enough to change Brazos' use case:  If the chip wasn't fast enough for your workloads before now, Brazos 2.0 isn't going to change that.

Unfortunately, static product specs didn't prevent AMD from a bit of dishonest marketing. The company has declared that Brazos 2.0 contains a Radeon 7000 GPU, despite the fact that the underlying hardware hasn't changed. A 7000-series GPU, in AMD parlance, now refers to one of four different things:
  • A 28nm GPU based on GCN (Graphics Core Next)
  • A 40nm GPU based on the Barts/Turks cores (debuted in Radeon HD 6700-6800 family)
  • A 32nm GPU based on the HD Radeon 6900 family (Trinity APU)
  • A 40nm GPU based on the HD 5000 family (Brazos 2.0).
Perhaps we could extend the brand a bit more and offer a line of ill-tempered dogs?

It's the AMD Russelleon! Guaranteed to gnaw your games to bits.

Ok. Rant over. Moving on, there's actually a few features worth discussing. Brazos 2.0 may not move the bar much on the performance front, but that doesnt' mean it doesn't offer other benefits.

Brazos 2.0 packs in USB 3.0, support for SATA 6G, an SD card reader, and lower idle power consumption. They're all incremental upgrades, but taken in aggregate they put a new sheen on an already-successful part from AMD. Granted, it's not what the company promised when Bobcat launched -- AMD originally planned to have 28nm, second-generation Krishna and Wichita parts available by now -- but the company was forced to go back to the drawing board after those parts didn't meet internal expectations.

The good news is that the tablet revolution was more-or-less postponed a year. Intel's Medfield and upcoming Clover Trail will make a play for the tablet space, but these devices aren't expected to seize serious traction until the debut of Windows 8. That gives AMD time to work on its new 28nm Brazos refresh, codenamed Kabini.

AMD hasn't given a date on Kabini or Kaveri, but we're hoping both chips drop more towards the beginning of 2013 rather than the back. A true successor to Brazos would give AMD a competitive solution at a time when more ARM chips will be popping up in Windows 8 tablets. In the meantime, Brazos' modest bump helps keep the part feature-competitive for customers who need a low-end notebook at a bargain price.
Tags:  AMD, Radeon, GPU, CPU, APU, Bobcat, Brazos